Recent studies and reports have raised questions about the efficacy of cannabis in treating insomnia and its long-term effects on sleep. While some evidence suggests that acute, limited use of cannabis may aid sleep, chronic and heavy usage is linked to a myriad of sleep disturbances. But is cannabis really a reliable remedy for insomnia, or does it complicate sleep patterns further?
With the increase in cannabis use among older adults, from 2.4% to 4.2% between 2015 and 2018, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is a significant need to understand its impact on sleep. The growing prevalence, particularly in this demographic, which may have an already increased susceptibility to sleep disorders, adds to the urgency of this inquiry.
Some research points to the potential benefits of short-term cannabis use in reducing sleep onset latency; however, there’s skepticism about its chronic use. Regular consumption could lead to habituation, diminishing the sleep-inducing properties of cannabis, and may result in reduced sleep quality over time. Does this mean individuals might be caught in a cycle where they rely on cannabis for sleep but simultaneously impair their sleep health?
Complications arise upon cessation of cannabis use as well, with individuals likely to experience a rebound in REM sleep, which can lead to more intense dreams. This phenomenon is supported by the experience of a London-based journalist, Sarah*, who reported that cannabis initially helped with her anxiety and ADHD but also led to unusual dream patterns when attempting to quit.
Further complicating the relationship between cannabis and sleep is the cognitive aspect. Long-term use has been associated with declines in IQ and cognitive abilities, including learning and processing speed. Harvard Health notes that the more frequent the cannabis use, the greater the cognitive deficits observed, raising questions about the trade-offs between potential sleep benefits and cognitive health.
Moreover, cannabis contains cannabinoids like CBD, which may alleviate anxiety but also introduces short-term cognitive impairments. The complexity of cannabis’s effects is evident, warranting further investigation to provide clear guidance for users and healthcare providers.
A comprehensive review of literature by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania underscores the need for more research to conclusively determine the effects of cannabinoid administration on sleep.
As cannabis remains one of the most widely used substances, especially among young adults, it’s crucial to approach its use with caution, particularly regarding sleep health. The current body of research suggests that while cannabis may offer temporary relief for certain individuals, it could potentially exacerbate or lead to sleep problems over time.